A third of people treated for cancer develop adverse side effects within their mouth. But while these effects can be devastating to teeth and gums, there are ways to minimize the damage.
Treatments like chemotherapy and radiation work by destroying cancer cells. Unfortunately, they may also destroy normal cells. The accumulation of this “collateral damage” ultimately affects uninvolved areas and organ systems of the body. Chemotherapy, for example, can interrupt bone marrow blood cell formation and decrease the body's ability to fight infection.
These ripple effects can eventually reach the mouth. It's not uncommon for cancer patients to develop mouth sores or see an increase in tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease. The treatments may also inhibit saliva flow: because saliva neutralizes acid and provides other benefits that lower disease risk, dental disease is more likely to develop when the salivary flow is reduced.
The first step to minimizing these effects is to improve oral health before cancer treatment begins. An unhealthy mouth vastly increases the chances for problems during treatment. Cooperating with your cancer physicians, we should attempt to treat any diseases present as soon as possible.
During cancer treatment we should also monitor your oral health and intervene when appropriate. If at all possible, you should continue regular dental visits for cleaning and checkups, and more so if conditions warrant. We can also protect your teeth and gums with protective measures like antibacterial mouth rinses, saliva stimulation or high-potency fluoride applications for your enamel.
What's most important, though, is what you can do for yourself to care for your mouth during the treatment period. Be sure to brush daily with a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste. You can use a weak solution of one-quarter teaspoon each of salt and baking soda to a quart of warm water to rinse your mouth and soothe any sores. And be sure to drink plenty of water to reduce dry mouth.
While you're waging your battle against cancer, stay vigilant about your teeth and gums. Taking care of them will ensure that after you've won your war against this malignant foe your mouth will be healthy too.
If you would like more information on taking care of your teeth and gums during cancer treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Health During Cancer Treatment.”
Probably a day doesn’t go by that you don’t encounter advertising for dental implants. And for good reason: implants have taken the world of dentistry by storm.
Since their inception over thirty years ago, implants have rocketed ahead of more conventional tooth replacements to become the premier choice among both dentists and patients. But what is an implant—and why are these state-of-the-art dental devices so popular?
Resemblance to natural teeth. More than any other type of dental restoration, dental implants mimic both the appearance and function of natural teeth. Just as teeth have two main parts—the roots beneath the gum surface and the visible crown—so implants have a similar construction. At their heart, implants are root replacements by way of a titanium metal post imbedded in the jawbone. To this we can permanently attach a life-like porcelain crown or even another form of restoration (more about that in a moment).
Durability. Implant materials and unique design foster a long-term success rate after ten years in the 95-plus percentile. They achieve this longevity primarily due to the use of titanium as the primary metal in the implant post. Because bone has an affinity for titanium, it will grow and adhere to the post over time to create a well-anchored hold. With proper maintenance and care implants can last for decades, making them a wise, cost-effective investment.
Added stability for other restorations. While most people associate implants with single tooth replacements, the technology has a much broader reach. For example, just a few strategically-placed implants can support a removable denture, giving this traditional restoration much more security and stability. What’s more, it can help stop bone loss, one of the main drawbacks of conventional dentures. In like fashion, implants can support a fixed bridge, eliminating the need to permanently alter adjacent teeth often used to support a conventional bridge.
With continuing advances, implant technology is becoming increasingly useful for a variety of restorative situations. Depending on your individual tooth-loss situation, dental implants could put the form and function back in your smile for many years to come.
If you would like more information on dental implant restorations, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants: Your Best Option for Replacing Teeth.”
If there's anything that makes Alfonso Ribeiro happier than his long-running gig as host of America's Funniest Home Videos, it's the time he gets to spend with his family: his wife Angela, their two young sons, and Alfonso's teenaged daughter. As the proud dad told Dear Doctor–Dentistry & Oral Health magazine, "The best part of being a father is the smiles and the warmth you get from your children."
Because Alfonso and Angela want to make sure those little smiles stay healthy, they are careful to keep on top of their kids' oral health at home—and with regular checkups at the dental office. If you, too, want to help your children get on the road to good oral health, here are five tips:
- Start off Right—Even before teeth emerge, gently wipe baby's gums with a clean, moist washcloth. When the first teeth appear, brush them with a tiny dab of fluoride on a soft-bristled toothbrush. Schedule an age-one dental visit for a complete evaluation, and to help your child get accustomed to the dental office.
- Teach Them Well—When they're first learning how to take care of their teeth, most kids need a lot of help. Be patient as you demonstrate the proper way to brush and floss…over and over again. When they're ready, let them try it themselves—but keep an eye on their progress, and offer help when it's needed.
- Watch What They Eat & Drink—Consuming foods high in sugar or starch may give kids momentary satisfaction…but these substances also feed the harmful bacteria that cause tooth decay. The same goes for sodas, juices and acidic drinks—the major sources of sugar in many children's diets. If you allow sugary snacks, limit them to around mealtimes—that gives the mouth a chance to recover its natural balance.
- Keep Up the Good Work—That means brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day, every single day. If motivation is an issue, encourage your kids by letting them pick out a special brush, toothpaste or floss. You can also give stickers, or use a chart to show progress and provide a reward after a certain period of time. And don't forget to give them a good example to follow!
- Get Regular Dental Checkups—This applies to both kids and adults, but it's especially important during the years when they are rapidly growing! Timely treatment with sealants, topical fluoride applications or fillings can often help keep a small problem from turning into a major headache.
Bringing your kids to the dental office early—and regularly—is the best way to set them up for a lifetime of good checkups…even if they're a little nervous at first. Speaking of his youngest child, Alfonso Ribeiro said "I think the first time he was really frightened, but then the dentist made him feel better—and so since then, going back, it's actually a nice experience." Our goal is to provide this experience for every patient.
If you have questions about your child's dental hygiene routine, call the office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”
All crowns are designed to restore functionality to a damaged tooth. But crowns can differ from one another in their appearance, in the material they’re made from, and how they blend with other teeth.
A crown is a metal or porcelain artifice that’s bonded permanently over a decayed or damaged tooth. Every crown process begins with preparation of the tooth so the crown will fit over it. Afterward, we make an impression of the prepared tooth digitally or with an elastic material that most often is sent to a dental laboratory to create the new crown.
It’s at this point where crown composition and design can diverge. Most of the first known crowns were made of metal (usually gold or silver), which is still a component in some crowns today. A few decades ago dental porcelain, a form of ceramic that could provide a tooth-like appearance, began to emerge as a crown material. The first types of porcelain could match a real tooth’s color or texture, but were brittle and didn’t hold up well to biting forces. Dentists developed a crown with a metal interior for strength and a fused outside layer of porcelain for appearance.
This hybrid became the crown design of choice up until the last decade. It is being overtaken, though, by all-ceramic crowns made with new forms of more durable porcelain, some strengthened with a material known as Lucite. Today, only about 40% of crowns installed annually are the metal-porcelain hybrid, while all-porcelain crowns are growing in popularity.
Of course, these newer porcelain crowns and the attention to the artistic detail they require are often more expensive than more traditional crowns. If you depend on dental insurance to help with your dental care costs, you may find your policy maximum benefit for these newer type crowns won’t cover the costs.
If you want the most affordable price and are satisfied primarily with restored function, a basic crown is still a viable choice. If, however, you would like a crown that does the most for your smile, you may want to consider one with newer, stronger porcelain and made with greater artistic detail by the dental technician. In either case, the crown you receive will restore lost function and provide some degree of improvement to the appearance of a damaged tooth.
Unlike our primitive ancestors, our teeth have it relatively easy. Human diets today are much more refined than their counterparts from thousands of years ago. Ancient teeth recovered from those bygone eras bear that out, showing much more wear on average than modern teeth.
Even so, our modern teeth still wear as we age—sometimes at an accelerated rate. But while you can't eliminate wearing entirely, you can take steps to minimize it and preserve your teeth in your later years. Here are 3 things you can do to slow your teeth's wearing process.
Prevent dental disease. Healthy teeth endure quite well even while being subjected to daily biting forces produced when we eat. But teeth weakened by tooth decay are more susceptible to wear. To avoid this, you should practice daily brushing and flossing to remove disease-causing dental plaque. And see your dentist at least twice a year for more thorough dental cleanings and checkups.
Straighten your bite. A poor bite, where the top and bottom teeth don't fit together properly, isn't just an appearance problem—it could also cause accelerated tooth wear. Having your bite orthodontically corrected not only gives you a new smile, it can also reduce abnormal biting forces that are contributing to wear. And don't let age stop you: except in cases of bone deterioration or other severe dental problems, older adults whose gums are healthy can undergo orthodontics and achieve healthy results.
Seek help for bruxism. The term bruxism refers to any involuntary habit of grinding teeth, which can produce abnormally high biting forces. Over time this can increase tooth wear or weaken teeth to the point of fracture or other severe damage. While bruxism is uncommon in adults, it's still a habit that needs to be addressed if it occurs. The usual culprit is high stress, which can be better managed through therapy or biofeedback. Your dentist can also fashion you a custom guard to wear that will prevent upper and lower teeth from wearing against each other.
If you would like more information on minimizing teeth wear, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How and Why Teeth Wear.”
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